A Monster Calls, a story by Patrick Ness about how one child comes to terms with the harshness of life through the power of stories. It’s a tale we’ve heard before but never with such truth, and I was lucky enough to see the big screen adaptation recently with Patrick Ness in attendance.
A Monster Calls follows a young man by the name of Conor O’Malley (MacDougall). He lives with his terminally ill mother (Jones) whom he adores. He lives day to day with the crushing fear that his mother may not survive until one restless night a monstrous beast (Neeson) visits him. This monster states that it will tell him three stories and after they are through Conor must tell the monster a story of his own, his truth as the monster dubs it, only then can Conor face his nightmare.
Stories, our lives are defined by them. They’ve always taught us lessons in how to live our lives and to help us cope with loss and pain. This element is the core of A Monster Calls, through the tales Conor learns many life lessons and he needs them, at the start of A Monster Calls Conor is a broken child who has fooled himself into believing he’s okay.
This heartbreaking performance from young talent MacDougall was incredible to watch as from the moment he is on the screen to the end credits he has you in the palm of his hands. His personal journey will leave you an emotional wreck as Conor has gotten into the routine of restless nights worrying about his ailing mother and containing in all his anger and resentment towards the people around him.
This semblance of life is the norm for him, and what the monster and film as a whole teaches are that it’s okay to be upset with how your world has turned out. It’s okay to rebel, it’s okay to scream, it’s okay to be angry because no one expects you to be sunshine and lollipops when your world is crumbling around you.
An impressive cast joins MacDougal through his journey. Felicity Jones has a quiet strength about her that is fascinating to watch, Toby Kebbell as always gives a balanced performance as Conor’s absentee father and Liam Neeson is a particular highlight as the titular monster. Couple his performance with the ravishing visuals of both the monster and the tales he tells and you’re in for a treat.
If there were any issues, it would fall to Sigourney Weaver’s performance as the grandmother. Though she is capable in the performance, hitting the emotional beats when needed there is something off about her.
It may have been down to the simple lack of a convincing English accent or that I simply couldn’t separate the legend that is Sigourney Weaver with the character but sadly her performance didn’t resonate with me. On top of this, the film can be overly emotional at times but thanks to the performances, in particular, MacDougal’s, the film is reigned in before it becomes a problem.
With dynamite performances, astounding visuals, and a staggering emotional core A Monster Calls is a breathtaking film. When A Monster Calls be sure and answer.